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2000 Game Recap: Mets Happier With Bell And Benitez Than Griffey

The last time we saw Al Leiter on the mound against the Cincinnati Reds, he was pitching a complete game two hit shut out to send the Mets to the NLDS. Today, Leiter was not nearly as sharp against the Reds, and he would fatigue late in the game.

Heading into the top of the sixth, the Mets had a 4-1 lead over the Reds. The first run came on back-to-back doubles by Mike Piazza and Robin Ventura to lead off the second inning. Two innings later, Edgardo Alfonzo hit a two run homer driving in Rickey Henderson. Later that inning, Ventura hit a solo shot.

For Leiter, he was fighting it hitting the first batter he faced, Pokey Reese. Entering that sixth inning, he did not have a clean 1-2-3 inning. Fortunately, he was the beneficiary of double plays in the second and fourth. However, he could not get that double play ball in the third.

That inning, Reese doubled off of Leiter, and he advanced to third on a wild pitch. Former Mets prospect Alex Ochoa drove in Reese with an RBI groundout. The wild pitch was indicative of how much Leiter was fighting it on this brutally cold day. Overall, he would hit two batters, throw the wild pitch, and issue three walks.

Leiter’s wildness and ineffectiveness caught up to him in the sixth. He would load the bases with one out after walking Dante Bichette, allowing a double to Dmitri Young, and hitting Aaron Boone. Benito Santiago drove in a run with an RBI groundout. After a Travis Dawkins RBI double and Mark Lewis RBI single, the Reds had a 5-4 lead.

At that point, Leiter was chased from the game with Turk Wendell getting the last out of the inning to end the rally. This was the second straight game Wendell entered during a jam, and he would get out of it keeping the Mets chances in the game alive. Today, he would be rewarded with a win for his efforts.

In the top of the seventh, the Mets tied the score on a lead-off homer by Derek Bell. After that homer, Alfonzo singled, and Piazza doubled to set up second and third with no outs. The Reds then brought in Scott Sullivan. He apparently wasn’t quite ready as he first issued an intentional walk to Ventura before issuing an unintentional bases loaded walk to Jon Nunnally to give the Mets a 6-5 lead.

With the bases loaded and no outs, the Mets seemed primed to blow this game wide open. Instead, Sullivan went from throwing eight straight balls to striking out Jay Payton and Melvin Mora with ease. Matt Franco grounded out to end the rally.

This game would get a little more interesting. It was interesting not in the fact that it was a crazy back-and-forth affair. It wasn’t. Rather, it was interesting because we got early returns on the Mets offseason.

Before the Mets obtained Mike Hampton from the Astros, they had first attempted to get Ken Griffey, Jr. away from the Mariners. In that deal, the Mets were rumored to be parting with Roger Cedeno, Octavio Dotel, and Armando Benitez. When Griffey refused a trade to the Mets, Steve Phillips moved Cedeno and Dotel to the Astros.

In that Astros trade, the Mets not only netted Hampton, but also Bell. Bell has been a revelation for the Mets not only with his terrific right field defense but also for his big hits. One of those big hits came today with the game tying homer to lead off the seventh.

The failed Griffey trade also meant Benitez remained on as the Mets closer. Today, the Mets were happy with that.

After walking Sean Casey to lead off the inning, Benitez responded by striking out Reese and Michael Tucker. That brought Griffey to the plate as the go-ahead run. With the game on the line, the Shea Stadium crowd who let him have it all day continued to let him have it. They then got to celebrate when Benitez blew a fastball by Griffey to end the game.

With the win, the Mets winning streak is now nine games, and more than that, it appears as if the Mets got lucky by having Bell in right instead of Griffey. Of course, Griffey is a future Hall of Famer, and the Mets may still wish they got him, but for now, this is a Mets team who appears to be World Series contenders, and we will all take that.

Game Notes: The Mets wore their 1969 throwbacks. Before the game, Rey Ordonez and Cookie Rojas left the ballpark to protest the Elian Gonzalez deportation. This was part of a nationwide one-day work stoppage. Mora started at short in Ordonez’s place.

Editor’s Note: With there being no games to begin the season, this site will follow the 2000 season and post recaps as if those games happened in real time. If nothing else, it is better to remember this pennant winning season and revisit some of the overlooked games than it is to dwell on the complete lack of baseball.

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